This article originally appeared in Norwegian on the website of Klasskampen.no on September 10th as a part of the debate on the controversial decision to award Peter Handke the Ibsen Award. Written by lyricist, playwright and translator Øyvind Berg who is well acquainted with Handke´s work and his political views, especially his Serbia activism. Article has been translated and published with the author´s permisson.
Across Europe extremism is growing on both sides of the political spectrum, and none of these movements have greater penetration in its population base than the Serb ultra-nationalists. Milorad Dodik controls Republika Srpska – one of the two entities that make up Bosnia and Herzegovina – by increasingly extremist principles. Serbian repression of what actually happened has become more and more grotesque. One of Radovan Karadzic defense witnesses claimed during the trial in The Hague that they only attacked military targets in Sarajevo from 1992 to 1995, and always in self-defense. The National Library; Vijecnica, with two million volumes that they set on fire – was in fact a Muslim ammunition depot which self-ignited, according to them. 6th of February this year a Serb representative in the Bosnian parliament said that Ratko Mladic was a national hero.
Many of the mayors in Republika Srpska are returning war criminals. Here we have to do with people who get upset over the use of the word “genocide “, but who choose to elect killers. Returning ethnic Muslims are harassed. I wrote earlier this year: “Utøya was like a miniature Bosnia. The Norwegian fascist was also greatly inspired by Serbian fascists – but he operated alone. Here they are many, and eighteen years after the war they have probably grown stronger. Very few were punished for their misdeeds, and those who were judged were given ridiculously low penalties. Several key war criminals are already free. Others stand at the court in The Hague and taunting their victims, week after week, year after year. Surviving victims will survive as best they can.”
In this situation the jury for the International Ibsen Award finds it prudent to honor the only possible candidate that supports the aggressors in the Balkans. While the willingness for peace and reconciliation is crumbling, the jury finds it right to endorse an author who has systematically applauded the most extremist Serbian actors. And they choose to do so without questioning his political attitudes and actions – but they claim that his work” is unparalleled in terms of formal beauty and brilliant reflection.”
What kind of brilliant reflections are they referring to? Is it the conspiracy theory about how great powers minus Russia have tried to crush the Serbs ever since Bismarck’s time? Is it the idea that Serbian war crimes are an overly literary affair to be treated by the courts? Is it the strategy of ethnic cleansing? Since the jury chooses not to discuss Handke´s political activities and positions, it is impossible to answer these questions, and there are only two ways to interpret their decision: Either the jury shares Handke`s vision and sympathizes or they do not know what they do?
Maybe the jury is simply deceiving itself? Maybe they are not capable of understanding simple political statements? Evidence would indicate that this is indeed the case. The justification for the award is full of strange assertions and crazy characteristics. Peter Handke’s play ” Die Fahrt im Einbaum” (Journey in the Trunk) from 1999 described as ”a modern world theatre.”
The irony of this expression becomes overwhelming when we know that “World Theatre” is one of Peter Handke´s designations for the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, and the play´s basic structure is that of a trial. Two directors, one American and one Spanish are preparing to make a movie about the war in the Balkans, there is a mysterious screenplay written by a disappeared writer, and the script´s characters appear one by one in front of the director as in an audition or a witness interrogation. Some of them have taken part in the war, others have been observers, journalists or aid workers, what Handke refers to as; “hyenas of humanity”
The point of view in the play is easily recognizable as that of the Chetniks, (Serbian fascists) and the author himself shows up under the nickname “The Greek” It´s known that Maldic´s forces took Srebrenica with the help of Greek Volunteers and before the massacre two flags were raised over the town, a Serb and a Greek. The play´s hero is a kind man of the woods named after Handke’s friend Novislav Djajic.
When this character is whining and complaining on stage over the two years he served in German prison – it is an unpleasant fact that in all of that: Novislav Djajic was found guilty for the murder of fourteen innocent people. Two years for fourteen murders is not a harsh punishment. But it is worth noting that the hero of the piece is a war criminal and that it´s not the crime but the punishment that upsets the author.
During the funeral of a major war criminal Handke spoke sarcastically about the world media, who were not present because the believed that they knew the truth about Slobodan Milosevic. Handke said that he did not know the truth (still he could swear on the innocence of the deceased) and added: ”But I see. I feel. I recall. Therefore I´m present here today, close to Yugoslavia, close to Serbia, close to Slobodan Milosevic.”
Now it matters little what Peter Handke actually said on that occasion, what matters is that he paid tribute to a war criminal and that tens of thousands ultra-nationalists that cheered understood that he was their man. Now they knew of course already that this was the only European intellectual that was willing to publicly trample all over their victims but the funeral speech was the symbolic gesture that sealed the covenant between Serbia´s most rabid nationalists and Peter Handke.
Some would also argue that it´s courageous of him to come forward in this way. By solemnly swearing by someone who conveys an almost unimaginable misanthropy and who is in common parlance referred to as a fascist. Karl Ove Knausgård ventures into those waters in an interview for Dagbladet where he calls Handke´s speech; “the most politically incorrect thing one can do” This is an extremely flexible use of the term ” politically incorrect “, which in many ways is a badge of honour for a writer.
Peter Handke is an author who has also accumulated many honors, in 2008 he received the Order of Njegoš of the first class by the president of Republika Srpska; Milorad Dodik. From Serbia, he has, in addition to a piece of land, received both The Prince Lazar Gold Cross (2009) and the gold service medal (2013) During the ceremony in April 2013 the point was made that recipient of the award turns down all honors from agencies that don´t share his views. What says the Norwegian Ministry of Culture about this? No comment?
Also the last play,” Immer noch Sturm”, has been honored with several awards. In this piece we encounter an author who´s writing is more muted, in the tradition of fellow countryman Hugo von Hofmannsthal (1874-1929), who is little read today, but who was a literary superstar in his lifetime.
As a 1890s lyrical drama it takes place outside of time and space, or in a mythical time. Sparse on dialogue and action the language is lyrical and self-reflecting, the imagery symbolic and the characters have the stamp of something otherworldly. The play is about a homesickness that has strong political connotations, a longing back to the authentic and pure life, to a time when people were surrounded by nature in a language that exudes what is real in an organic way, a language that is not tainted by what the author calls; “real time, historic, shitty” The play´s “I” is a man that very much resembles Peter Handke, the other characters are his mother, her parents and her siblings, three brothers and a sister. The author uses his own family´s history freely at the same time as he writes the piece in way that fits in with his Yugoslav commitment.
Alongside the first person there is uncle Gregor who is an expression of that commitment. In reality his uncle died fighting for the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front. In the flashback scenes he´s re-written into what we here call a «gutta på skauen» ( resistance movement) a deserter and a partisan who´s happiest day in his life is the day when Nazi-Germany surrenders, on May 8th 1945. However his happiness is short-lived, it turns out that only ten days later the western powers (in the eyes of the story teller) had betrayed the people in these border areas between Austria and Yugoslavia and that the area would be a part of the former (Austria) and the dream of Yugoslavia lost to the poor fruit gardener , “apple man” Gregor, – passages about fruit cultivation and different apple types constitute the highlights of the lyrical closely interwoven text, which is packed with historical echoes, old sayings and folk songs.
Gregor´s anti-Nazi path is also depicted as language path. He chooses to “fight for our mother´s. our father´s, our children´s house and livestock, for our Slavic, Illyrian or Ostrogoth or other kind of heritage that to some degree can be used to express the souls of our people, and admittedly the love of the country´s own language.” That is the Slovenian language, the writer´s extremely mythologized mother´s language, a language that is invaded by the foreign German, and makes the grandfather curse all that is German in a curse that also frames the play´s “I” since his mother was impregnated by a German soldier.
Here we are transported to a mythical landscape where the German (Peter Handke´s own language, represents the evil and the instrumental) while the Slovenian (which later in a metonymic two stage movement starting with the dissolution of Yugoslavia, ends up being Serbian) represents the absolute good. As much as this may seem to be an oversimplified interpretation it does describe the fundamental conflict of both the play and the contradictions that are hardened by Peter Handke´s deep and defiant convictions which he generously projects on to the world around him.
The more beautiful «Immer noch Sturm» grows to the spectator the bigger the sense of unease for those who know that the conviction behind it is full of lies and concealment of brutality. The lyrical drama genre has never been more political than in this piece. The jury calls it a “masterpiece” I’d argue that it is a deeply flawed piece which looks beautiful on the surface.
It´s cowardly of the Ibsen Award jury to look the other way when it comes to the political dimensions in Peter Handke´s work, especially since the author himself is seldom ambiguous about where he stands. He also has a great deal of support both in and out of academic circles especially among those on the left and right extremes of the political spectrum. But regardless of what side they are initially on: The defense of Peter Handke´s Serbia activism is based on the outlook of the Serbian fascists. This is isn´t some post-modern hobby-fascism. This is bloody serious, and the surviving victims are all around us.
Peter Handke takes center stage in the story of one of the most explosive nationalist events of our time. He´s not a writer who accepts established truths, quite the opposite, he´s the kind of writer that cynically exploits the artistic potential of reactionary dogmas. A Hamsun-Award would have suited him better-given Hamsun’s Nazi-sympathies, but to honor Peter Handke in Henrik Ibsen´s name? That is a disgrace and an outrage.
This essay was first published in the book “War and Change in the Balkans” (Cambridge University Press, 2006.) It was later re-published by Serbian portal Peščanik.net in 2009. This is the english version. You can find the serbian version here.
Throughout the eight years of conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Western, and particularly American policy in the region has been characterized by confusion, wishful thinking, procrastination, evasions and a lack of focus and determination.
The most likely reason for such behavior on the part of the United States may simply have been that, in 1991, Yugoslavia was very low on the State Department’s list of priorities. This was a time of great turmoil in the world. The end of the Cold War, the fall of communism, and the unification of Germany were certainly all events of epochal and global significance that by far outweighed the petty ethnic bickering of Yugoslav leaders. Especially since, at this time, Yugoslavia was considered the most promising candidate, among former communist states, for a smooth transition into both the parliamentary system and an open market economy, as well as integration into European economic and political institutions. Focused on larger global events and confident in Yugoslavia’s capacity for a smooth transition, Western diplomats underestimated the potential of these petty tensions to escalate into violence.
At the time, optimism was rampant; the United States swore by ‘multilateralism’ hoping to engage Russia in the Security Council and work out global problems by consensus. Little was understood, at the time, about the terrible consequences now encountered by people who had spent half a century or more under the rock of communist rule; little understood about the humiliation of the Soviet Union, yesterday’s mighty empire, now pushed into bankruptcy and political disarray. And most tragically of all, the celebratory mood of the West prevented them from recognizing that, despite the fact that the threat of the Soviet Union had disappeared, the United States could not simply disengage from Europe, just as NATO, far from being an obsolete organization, still had a significant role to play. The dangers created by the dissolution of the bipolar world, by a disintegration of the entire balanced field of political forces, were completely ignored. The West also failed to recognize that with the disappearance of the old world order once imposed upon the world by two hegemonies from above, the possibility was created for the emergence of a new ‘order’. This was created from below by small players, newly released from the rigid old structure and now free to settle their accounts with their neighbours.
For the West, and the United States especially, the fall of communism was a positive development – a victory. And so they failed to recognize that from an internal perspective the situation was fraught with instability and hidden dangers. It was for these reasons that the conflict in the former Yugoslavia found the United States, whose first reflex was to leave the problem to the Europeans, unprepared; after all, Yugoslavia was ‘Europe’s backyard’. The United States was busy cutting down on military spending, getting out of the recession, celebrating the end of the Cold War and going through presidential elections.
When Europeans, left without American leadership, turned out to be unable to formulate a common foreign policy towards Yugoslavia, the United States decided to dump the problem on the United Nations – to act only ‘multilaterally’. It seems that, by this time, it was already clear to American policymakers that the United Nations might not be up to the task, and that this move was meant merely to sweep the problem under the UN carpet.
The UN quickly assumed a ‘neutral’ and ‘evenhanded’ position and the whole process came to a dead end while the US pretended not to notice. The US was satisfied with the situation, in which the ‘neutral’ UN peacekeepers acted as self-appointed hostages and prevented any military action. Yet such action was the only thing that could have stopped the blood bath organised by Milošević, first in Croatia and then in Bosnia.
Needless to say, ‘multilateralism’ did not work, as Russia was happy to reinstate itself as a global player and a factor in the international arena. The ‘evenhanded’ stance taken by the UN could not have been effective, as the whole Yugoslav drama was a one-man show run by Milošević. Both the UN and the United States grossly misjudged this man around whom the vortex of violence turned, and this was perhaps the biggest mistake made by the United States, the UN, and the entire international community from the beginning of the Yugoslav conflict. This misjudgment, along with the failure to understand what the nature of the conflict was in the first place, later caused a string of wrong decisions to be made.
The nature of the conflict was perceived from the very beginning, especially in the United States, in ideological terms: Milošević was ‘a Communist’, and Tudjman and Izetbegović were ‘democrats’.
However, at that point in time, what was playing out in Yugoslavia was not about ideology; it was a simple power struggle.
After the death of Tito, who ruled as an absolute dictator, an enormous power vacuum was felt throughout the country. The Presidency which replaced him, and which was supposed to reach its conclusions by consensus, was practically paralyzed. The whole political system had been adapted to revolve around a single figure and a single will. Tito’s authority was not rooted in his institutional post as the president, but in his role as the head of the Communist Party and, even more importantly, in his role as the commander in chief. It had been made obvious during the party purges, especially in the early seventies, that Tito’s main strength had come from the Yugoslav Army. No single member of the Presidency, or, for that matter, all of them put together, could have fulfilled such a role.
The first result of this power struggle was the splintering of the Communist Party into six disparate parties. Since Tito no longer delegated the power from the top, party leaders sought support from below, by casting themselves as representatives of the interests of their respective republics.
Faced with the fall of communism, these six parties started to form alliances mainly along the lines of reformers and hard-line conservatives. Milošević, threatened by aggressive and militant anti-communists and royalists in Serbia, opted for the hard-line conservative option; he soon found himself politically defeated and isolated.
It is important to understand that he did not choose this position as a result of deeply ingrained political belief. Rather, he chose it because he alone realized that this was the best way to secure the real power, which did not belong to the Communist Party but to the highly indoctrinated Yugoslav army.
Thus, although apparently defeated and isolated within Yugoslavia, Milošević still held the trump card: the army. Nobody in Yugoslavia at tile time realised that this power struggle would be resolved by force, except Milošević. He recognised that the political battle was lost, and he was well positioned and prepared for the military battles in which he would be overwhelmingly superior. He made this clear during his famous Gazimestan speech when he masked his pursuit of power with such nationalist rhetoric as ‘us against them’, promising to ‘defend Serbian interests’ and, if necessary, to do so ‘with military means’.
The main effect of the speech was that it generated a great deal of fear, not only among non-Serbs in Yugoslavia, but also among Serbs who suddenly ‘realised’ the ‘gravity’ of the situation and the stakes involved.
Although at this point Milošević had the support of the army, a simple putsch was too risky to undertake as it might have provoked foreign intervention. Milošević lacked two things in order to effectively use the military force at his disposal: institutional control over the army and casus belli (a viable ‘provocation’).
According to the constitution, the commander in chief was the Presidency and, within the Presidency, Milošević controlled only four votes: those of the representatives of Serbia and its puppets, Montenegro, Kosovo and Vojvodina. In order to obtain even these votes, Milošević had to deprive Kosovo and Vojvodina of autonomy, and stage a putsch in Montenegro. But after all this, he still lacked one vote that would enable him to control the army.
Milošević then made a clever and bold move: he pushed Slovenia out of Yugoslavia (true to his double-talk, he accused them of separatism). This move solved both of his problems; without Slovenia he controlled the majority in the Presidency, but even more significantly, he created the casus belli. He knew that Croatia would run for the door the moment Slovenia left Yugoslavia, i.e., the moment Milošević got hold of the army. At this moment, Milošević knew he would be given an opportunity to use the army in order to prevent Croatia from taking the Serbian minority out of Yugoslavia.
Slovenia readily agreed to leave. Milošević’s threats and aggressive rhetoric were already spreading fear throughout the country. The Slovenians were perfectly aware that by jumping out of the boat they would overturn it, but the stakes were too high, and they opted for independence.
Milošević met with Slovenian President Kučan in May 1991. After their meeting they issued a joint statement in which Milošević agreed for Slovenia to leave the Federation and in which Kučan expressed his ‘understanding for the wish of all Serbians to live in a single state’.
The ‘war’ with Slovenia, which lasted ten days and had just a few casualties, was a show; Milošević never intended to hold them back. In a sense, it was just an overture playing the main theme, a foreshadowing of what would ensue if and when Croatia decided to follow the Slovenes. Croatia did follow and Milošević used the army ‘to protect the Serbs’ in Croatia. With the army in play, the potential power he had held in his hands hence became tragically real.
The popular perception in the West that the consequent armed conflict amounted to Milošević’s ‘fight against separatists’ was also false. Borisav Jović, then president of the Presidency and Milošević’s right-hand man testifies in his book Poslednji Dani SFRJ (Last Days of SFRY), about a conversation he had with Milošević in June of 1990: ‘He agrees with the plan to force Slovenia … out of Yugoslavia’.
Milošević and Jović knew that once the Slovenes left, a threatened Croatia would try to follow. Jović also states in his book that Veljko Kadijević, the chief of staff, had the following plan for Slovenia: to ‘respond forcefully … then withdraw … This will boost the Army morale, scare Croatia, and appease the Serbian people.’ 
But pushing Slovenia out was not enough. Milošević and his apparatchiks had to be certain that Croatia would follow their script. On 26January 1991, Jović writes in his dairy: ‘The war should be started by Croatia.’  To this end, they devised a plan whereby Croatia would be forced to act, and apparently without provocation from Belgrade. On 25 February 1991 Jović reported on an idea from the chief of staff, Veljko Kadijević: ‘Serbs in Krajina should be encouraged, not publicly but secretly, to secede from Croatia.’  In his own book, Kadijević also boasts of how the JNA ‘fulfilled its tasks of preparing both politically and militarily the Serbs in Croatia’ for war. Quite contrary to perceptions at the time, Milošević did not go to war in order to prevent Croatian secession and the dissolution of Yugoslavia. According to Jović, on 21 January 1991 during a telephone conversation concerning the ongoing crisis, the Croatian representative in the Presidency, Stipe Mesić, informed Jović that Croatia might choose to leave Yugoslavia in response to the threats coming from Belgrade. Jović warns Mesić that he is ‘choosing war’, and promptly informs Milošević of the conversation. Jović describes Milošević’s reaction in the following words: ‘He was exuberant: excellent’.
The West’s tendency to blindly accept Milošević’s claim that he was ‘protecting Yugoslavia from separatists’ is even more difficult to understand in view of the fact that Serbia designed the first separatist constitution as early as 28 September 1990. This was more than a year before 8 October 1991, when Croatia and Slovenia declared independence.
In article 72, Serbia is declared a ‘sovereign and independent’ country, with its own Army, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Bank etc. In article 135, Serbia declared that it was no longer bound by the laws of SFRY. In the spring of 1991, the Serbian parliament enacted a series of its own laws on monetary and fiscal policy, international relations, and customs (all previously regulated by the federal parliament). When reproached by Jović for the separatist content of the Croatian constitution during the 125th session of the Presidency, the Croatian representative Mesić justly replies: ‘We have done exactly the same as Serbia, we just copied your constitution and we knew we would be attacked for doing so’. It is hard to understand how the Western powers, including the United States, could have been confused and blinded for so long by Milošević’s absurd claims that he was just ‘protecting the unity and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia’, when there was so much evidence to the contrary.
Hundreds of books have been written by diplomats, journalists and self-proclaimed experts who have tried to explain all the intricacies, twists and turns, plots and subplots of the Yugoslav war, but the basic script was rather straightforward and simple. The whole prolonged affair boils down to a simple, single event: the moment Milošević secured control of the army. From this moment on, all the republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and, even today, Montenegro and Vojvodina) just wanted to escape Milošević’s jurisdiction and establish a firm international border between themselves and his aggressive, dangerous and unpredictable regime. Even the Serbs from Serbia fled his jurisdiction in hundreds of thousands by emigrating, especially the young and better educated segments of the population. All the events that followed were just a complication of this basic plot — a bunch of sideshows and distractions.
The United States failed to take a clear position from the start. During Secretary of State Baker’s visit to Yugoslavia a few months before the war erupted, the United States took the position that they were in favour of preserving the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia in accordance with the principle of stable borders as expressed in the Helsinki Accords.But, as the United States favoured the reunification of Germany, they were compelled to shift their position to the principle of self-determination. The United States sent mixed signals: they allowed Milošević to hide behind his ‘preserving the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia’, but then encouraged Croatia’s secession as an act of self-determination of the Croatian people.
The misinformed perception that the conflicts were motivated by ideological differences (communist versus democrats), and their ambivalent position in relation to the two different and contradicting principles described above (territorial integrityversus self-determination), made US policy in Yugoslavia both confused and confusing. The United States failed to recognise the simple picture of one man who had gained control of the army by unconstitutional means (the annexation of Kosovo and the putsch in Montenegro) in the power struggle that had erupted after Tito’s death, and who was now determined to use it to defeat his political opponents. Milošević’s control of the army and his readiness to use it set the stage for his one-man show.
Milošević not only wanted the war, but also needed it in order to be able to dictate the agenda. Once he threatened to use force, all of the other participants, including the international community and the United States, merely reacted to his moves. His discouraging success was the result of the obvious fact that the United States had no intention of intervening militarily, and that the Yugoslav Army had overwhelming superiority over the other players within Yugoslavia.
As Milošević was running the whole show, it would have made all the difference had he been properly understood from the very beginning. But, from the very beginning, Milošević’s motives were misinterpreted. The attempts to appease him, to somehow engage him, to apply too much carrot and no stick, to negotiate with him, to ‘help him save face’, and to see the non-existent ‘other side’ of the issues were all steps in the wrong direction.
Not only did these steps do nothing to stop his aggression, but they also actually encouraged it. To be fair, Milošević’s character and personality are both very unusual. In his case, analogies, the favourite tool of diplomats, did not work. This was so because men of Milošević’s personality and character rarely rise to positions of power, except in extraordinary and highly turbulent, revolutionary circumstances. His ‘motiveless malignancy’, to borrow Coleridge’s words, is a rare trait among politicians in normal times, even within the Communist Party through which he rose to power.
It is a pity how rarely diplomats seem to read poets. This type of personality has been described in literature with great clarity and deep understanding:
“The villain, on the other hand, is shown from the beginning as being a malcontent, a person with a general grudge against life and society. In most cases this is comprehensible because the villain has, in fact, been wronged by Nature or Society. [Both of Milošević’s parents committed suicide].
[His] primary satisfaction is the infliction of suffering on others, or the exercise of power over others against their will. [He has] the pleasure of making a timid conventional man become aggressive and criminal … [he] will not let him alone until he consents to murder.
[His actions are] a demonstration … that man does not always require serious motive for deceiving another. [He is] a practical joker … and all practical jokes are anti-social acts. The satisfaction of the practical joker is the look of astonishment on the faces of others when they learn that all the time they were convinced that they were thinking and acting on their own initiative, they were actually the puppets of another’s will.
The success of a practical joker depends upon his accurate estimate of the weakness of others, their ignorance, their social reflexes, their unquestioned presuppositions, their obsessive desires, and even the most harmless practical joke is an expression of the joker’s contempt for those he deceives.
The practical joker despises his victims, but at the same time he envies them because their desires, however childish and mistaken, are real to them, whereas he has no desire which he can call his own.
Yet the professional practical joker is certainly driven like a gambler, to his activity, but the drive is negative, a fear of lacking a concrete self, of being nobody.
[Since his] ultimate goal is nothingness, he must not only destroy others, but himself as well.”
The ‘villain’ described is Iago and the quotations are taken from W. H. Auden’s essay, ‘The Joker in the Pack’. This analysis of a fictional character, written fifty years ago in a literary essay on a Shakespeare tragedy, defines Milošević’s actions, his personality and his motives more accurately than the hundreds of pages that have been written on him by journalists, diplomats and political analysts.
Milošević had recognised the weakness of the Serbian population that was created by the vacuum of national identity they found themselves in after the death of Tito, and he played a morbid practical joke on them. Imposing the kind of strong leadership they had grown used to, he led them to the worst kind of criminal and aggressive behaviour imaginable: genocide. The nationalist card was simply the easiest means to this end.
If we accept Auden’s characterisation of Milošević, we can easily understand that Milošević was neither a communist nor a Serbian nationalist, and that it was impossible to appease him, to deal with him, to bribe him or to shame him. He was able to stay always a step ahead in this political game ruled by interests (including a personal self-interest) and trade-offs, since he had no such interests and no real stake because he was playing with counterfeit money.
Even the more recent conventional wisdom that he was ‘only interested in preserving power’ seems wrong; for Milošević, power was just a tool that enabled him to play his practical jokes. It was evident that he shunned the usual opportunities to enjoy power, such as interviews, public appearances, rallies and ovations, and his supporters, such as his wife, who spoke of him as a ‘very modest man’ and, tellingly, ‘extraterrestrial’ according to Mihalj Kertes, former minister of the interior.His political statements were usually made by others, by the puppets whose movements he controlled like a ventriloquist behind the scenes: his wife, the Academy of Sciences, Šešelj and members of the ‘government’ (the composition of which was shuffled and reshuffled constantly).
Had Milošević been understood earlier, the number of his victims could have been reduced considerably, and less time would have been lost in futile attempts to ‘deal’ with him. The passivity of the US administration was compounded when, as a result of extensive coverage of the Yugoslav war, public criticism of US policy and demands for military action started to mount. Still unwilling to get militarily involved due to the high political cost of such action, the US administration developed an extensive public campaign to fend off critics, which resulted in an elaborate misrepresentation of the Yugoslav conflict.
The administration tried to persuade the American public mat however terrible were the pictures that they watched every evening on CNN, there was ‘nothing that could be done’ because the conflict was a result of ‘centuries of hatred’, that it was driven by ‘blind forces of history’, that it was a ‘problem from hell’, that ‘there are no good guys in that conflict’ and that the only viable strategy was that which is used for forest fires – ‘let it burn itself out’.
Such misguided persuasion was probably a bigger mistake than the one that it was supposed to cover up. Passivity was bad enough, but the explanations given for such passivity, for example, ‘what can you do against the blind forces of history’, were much worse since they played straight into the hands of Milošević, whose propaganda kept repeating the same mantra: the conflict had erupted spontaneously, he had nothing to do with it, Serbia is not at war.
Of course, there was nothing spontaneous about the conflict. Most of the victims were produced by the professionals of the Yugoslav Army, by the Serbian police and by paramilitary groups whom the Serbian police organised, armed and shipped to the frontlines.
It was only in its later stages that the conflict also assumed some traits of a civil war, because it was impossible for civilians to remain neutral. It was at this later stage, roughly after 1992, that members of various ethnic groups flocked together and armed themselves as an act of self-preservation. It was also at this stage that non-Serbs started to retaliate against their Serbian neighbours for the atrocities committed by Milošević’s professionals. Milošević must have been delighted to learn that, according to the State Department, ‘There were no good guys in the conflict’. Being the main culprit, instigator and executioner, he readily agreed on many occasions that ‘all sides are committing atrocities’, thus equating the victims with the aggressors, and appearing to hold an ‘objective’ position at the same time.
Milošević was well aware that the hatred between Serbs on one hand, and the Croats and Bosnians on the other, was not the cause of the conflict, but the result of the brutal and unprovoked crimes perpetrated against the others (especially in Bosnia) by the Serbian side (his Army and his police). He also knew that these crimes were so terrible that they would create enough hatred for the war to be able to perpetuate itself.
Of course he was happy to hear that this hatred was ‘centuries old’. Both the American and Serbian media repeated these mantras from day to day in enormous circulation. Milošević understood this weakness of the American position, and he exploited it to the best of his ability. A great deal of denial still present among Serbs today was caused by the fact that American foreign policy and media emphatically reinforced Milošević’s own propaganda. At the time, this created among the Serbian population a feeling of omnipotence and triumph, for either the Americans were fooled by Milošević, or else the Western powers were, through their inactivity, actually allowing Milošević to get rid of the Muslims, an opinion frequently entertained in Serbia during the war. The State Department’s attempts to justify US passivity by claiming that the conflict was a spontaneous eruption of centuries old hatred had a devastating effect on the course of the war. From an objective point of view, passivity turned into complicity.
This allowed Milošević to retain the initiative right to the end. As Auden wrote of the tragedy of Othello: ‘I cannot think of any other play in which only one character performs personal action – all the deeds are Iago’s – and all the others without exception only exhibit behaviour’.All the deeds were Milošević’s; everybody else just exhibited ‘behaviour’, including the United States.
Even the grand finale, when the United States led the coalition finally into military intervention to stop the genocide in Kosovo, cannot truly be considered anything else than Milošević’s ‘deed’. Richard Holbrooke testifies that during their last encounter, he asked Milošević: ‘Do you realize fully what will come next?’ to which Milošević calmly responded, ‘Yes, you will bomb us.’
The State Department’s ‘behaviour’ can hardly be viewed as taking action in Kosovo; rather, the State Department painted itself into a corner by harsh rhetoric at Rambouillet by threats it hoped would never have to be carried through. Milošević’s resilience when faced with bombing, and his stubbornness during the bombing, again came as a complete surprise to the State Department.
Even at the end of the game, the State Department did not understand that Milošević cared nothing for the suffering inflicted on ‘his own people’ or the destruction of ‘his own country’ and the isolation of Yugoslavia, and that he welcomed this new opportunity for ‘making the timid and conventional man aggressive and criminal’. In one of Milošević’s courts in Valjevo, President Clinton was ‘indicted [in absentia] for war crimes’. However farfetched it may seem, the use of a court to promote Milošević’s political ends fits perfectly with his stubborn character.
Milošević initially profited from the anti-Western sentiment aroused by the bombing of Serbia, as well as from the desperation of his own population plunged .into poverty by the bombing. As for the subsequent isolation, even though it was short lived, it allowed him to settle his accounts with the pro-Western ‘fifth column’ and the ‘traitors’ of the opposition without having to worry about the niceties of human rights and democratic standards. Milošević never cared about losing Kosovo.
So, what could have been done differently? First, the late Yugoslav prime minister, Ante Marković, should have been helped by every possible means to preserve the formal unity of Yugoslavia; even if that meant injecting some of the billions of dollars later spent on interventions, peacekeeping, reconstruction and conferences. Even the offer of blue helmets in the face of the Milošević/Yugoslav Army conspiracy – if it led only to the subsequent dissolution of Yugoslavia – would have prevented the carnage that ensued.
Second, once Croatia and Bosnia carved out their own independent states, and these states were then internationally recognized, they should have been defended by the international community as members of the United Nations exposed to foreign aggressions. Most certainly, it was the duty of all members of the United Nations (including the United States), under the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide, to intervene in Bosnia. The State Department took pains to avoid even whispering the word ‘genocide’ and instead used Milošević’s carefully and cynically calibrated expression ‘ethnic cleansing’ in its place.
A man of Milošević’s profile with a lethal weapon in his hand could have been and should have been stopped as early as possible. This could only be accomplished by superior force. The United States initially declined to act as a world policeman and then chose to do so at an inappropriate moment, which was at a great cost and done hesitantly and messily. It attacked a sovereign state and interfered with its internal affairs. Of course, it had to be done, but it was done much too late, improperly, and even then half-heartedly, on Milošević’s own terms.
In the end, it required considerable international pressure, and a public divide between the late Prime Minister Zoran Djindjić and President Koštunica to force Milošević out of Serbia to the Hague where he died, while on trial accused of crimes against humanity in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia. Indignant, until the end, he prepared his own defence and challenged the legitimacy of the Tribunal. Although he died before justice could be served, the ‘malcontent’ did finally reach the dock.
“War and Change in the Balkans”, Brad K.Blitz, Cambridge University Press, 2006.
 See Warren Zimmermann, Origins of a Catastrophe, New York: New York Times Books, 1996. This book is especially valuable given his longstanding relationship with Milošević.
 See Mark Thompson, Paper House: The Ending of Yugoslavia, New York: Pantheon Books, 1994.
 For a scathing attack on the European Community’s actions and the effects of the US handover to the United Nations, see also Mark Almond,Europe’s Backyard War: The War in the Balkans, London: Heinemann, 1994.
 See James Gow, Legitimacy and the Military: The Yugoslav Crisis, London: Pinter; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.
 For an excellent analysis of the decay of the Titoist political system in the 1980s, focusing on the increasing concentration of legitimacy at the republican level, and on the counter-productive attempts of the Yugoslav Army to restore the legitimacy of the federal regime, see Gow, Legitimacy and the Military.
 See, for example, Robert Thomas, Serbiaunder Milošević: Politics in the 1990s -How Milošević Won and Exercised Power, London: Hurst & Company, 1999.
 See Branka Magas and Ivo Zanić (eds.), The War in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina 1991-1995, London: The Bosnian Institute/Frank Cass, 2001.
 Baker, 1995.
 For an account of the end of the Cold War from the perspective of the then secretary of state, see James Addison Baker and Thomas M. DeFrank,The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War, and Peace, 1989-1992, New York: Putnam, 1995.
 Adam LeBor’s Milošević: A Biography contains several interviews with the Milošević family and inner circle. It presents an image of cold, calculated determination on the part of both Milošević and his wife, Mirjana Marković, who was herself arrested in 2001 and charged with abuse of office before a Serbian court in 2003.
 W. H. Auden, The Dyer’s Hand, Random House: New York, 1967.
 Mihalj Kertes, a former interior minister and head of the Yugoslav customs, was central to the logistics of the Serb wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. He helped funnel the arms, equipment and money to the Serb militias and paramilitaries in Croatia and Bosnia in the run-up to the 1991-95 wars.
 Auden,Dyer’s Hand.
 See Richard Holbrooke, To End a War, New York: Random House 1998.
 Peter J. Boyer, ‘General Clark’s battles’, The New Yorker, 17 November 2003. This article documents the Clinton administration’s reluctance to intervene until it was absolutely unavoidable, as well as their mistaken view of Milošević.
This story appeared today on several Bosnian news sites. It was first reported by Anadolu Agency
By Anadolu Agency 2013-10-30
So far forensics experts have the found the remains of 333 people in the mass grave in the village of Tomasica near the town of Prijedor in northwest Bosnia. Of those 333 the forensics experts have been able to determine that 210 are complete remains of victims, and the rest are incomplete remains belonging to 123 more victims. All this according to Mujo Begic, from the Bosnian Institute for Missing Persons and the chief supervisor at the exhumation.
Head of the Institute for Missing Persons, Amor Masovic told Anadolu Agency that the exhumation is continuing and that at this point it is far from over. Forensics experts believe that they have stumbled upon one of the biggest, if not the biggest mass grave in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The size of the mass grave as it stands now is 3000 square meters. The experts believe that the remains in the mass grave belong o murdered Bosniak Muslims and Bosnian Croats, killed during the campaign of ethnic cleansing in northwest Bosnia in 1992.
Witnesses claim that altogether some 1000 bodies may have been dumped in the Tomasica mass grave, however they are indications that some of the bodies may have been exhumed by their killers and re-buried somewhere else in order to cover up their tracks. According to Mujo Begic ; “given the total number of bodies found so far in Tomasica mass grave along with the one found nearby in “Jakarina Kosa, it´s safe to say altogether there could be as many as 700 bodies buried in the area.
What we want to do now is find the remains of close to 1000 people who according to witness statements were dumped here. We wish to remove all doubt about how many people were buried here, or rather find all the people that were buried here. Begic added that “the investigators and the forensic experts want to get as much done as possible before it gets colder and the rain and snow comes.”
According to Begic these people were killed on their doorsteps, on the street, and their farms… “The killers did not make any distinction beetwen men and women, children and elderly, they were all killed and tossed into this pit. The majority of the victims were executed.” According to Begic. Begic´s team is also expecting to find the remains of seventeen children, including an 18 month old baby, who was killed togheter with her mom grandfather and uncle.
International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has known about the mass grave in Tomasica for years, but they did not know the exact location. Prior to the exhumation, a two year investigation in order to determine the location of the mass grave took place. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has so far convicted 16 Bosnian Serbs to a total of 230 years in prison for crimes committed in Prijedor. Prior to the discovery of the mass grave in Tomasica , the biggest known mass grave in Bosnia and Herzegovina was in Crni Vrh in eastern Bosnia, where the remains of 629 people were found. Investigators are looking for 8000 people yet to be found, all victims of the aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina.
UPPDATE: on 13th November Anadolu Agency (AA) reported that The Bosnian Institute for Missing Persons had confirmed that Tomasica was the biggest mass grave in Bosnia and Herzegovina and and most likely the biggest in former Yugoslavia and Europe since the end of WWII. Since the work on exhuming the remains of the victims started in September, the remains of 430 victims (previously 333) of which 275 are complete remains. Officials from The Bosnian Institute for Missing Persons said that they expected to exhume at least 200-300 remains more from the grave in Tomasica.
Mass Grave in Tomasica
On November 1, 2013 Daily Mail published pictures of the exhumed remains from Tomasica, along with a short video clip. The article can be accessed here. I have posted the images below. WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES!
It is utterly depressing having to write about Bosnian Genocide and the subsequent denial of it by those that have inherited the policy of discrimination based on political racial and religious ground which was the trademark of Slobodan Milosevic main client; Radovan Karadzic and his Republika Srpska, yet here we are. Still I guess it´s only logical. Republika Srpska foundations are based on lies, and in order for the lie to survive it has to become true. It´s depressing for a number of reasons, mostly because it´s clear now that the effect of that policy now 18 years after the Dayton Accords is far from being defeated or reversed, instead it´s is becoming institutionalized. That alternate image has now become a reality in 49 percent of the country. Why else would we now, twenty years after the beginning of the war, and eighteen years after the single biggest massacre on European soil after Second World War have people at the highest levels of political life in Bosnia and Herzegovina deny basic facts about the war and the genocide in Srebrenica? It can be argued that the current Bosnian Serb political leadership believes that the very existence of the entity Republika Srpska depends on being able to create an alternate image of what happened during the Bosnian War, who did what to whom, who started it and who committed the biggest number of atrocities and above all why? A justification for it´s very existence is needed.
The border created at the US air force base in Ohio that divided Bosnia and Herzegovina and in effect stopped the Bosnian Army from liberating the country has now become a mental border dividing Bosnians along ethnic lines, even though Dayton was never meant to be permanent in the first place. It was designed to reverse the effects of “ethnic cleansing” caused by the Serbian and Bosnian Serb onslaught on Eastern, and North-West Bosnia. It was also intended to lead to something more permanent and more stable, but above all it was a way of ending or halting the war, in the end it put too much faith in the same people that worked to destroy Bosnia and Herzegovina in the first place. Looking back at it; Dayton was the worst kind of appeasement. In effect it in rewarded aggression, “ethnic cleansing” and genocide. It rewarded the policies of Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic; those two men despite both of them eventually ending up in The Hague were the real winners in Dayton. The strategy that Milosevic and a cadre of JNA generals had developed and that was on the ground implemented by the political leadership of Radovan Karadzic and military leadership of Ratko Mladic meant to create a “State for all Serbs” a Greater Serbia meant in effect that only Serbs remain west of the Drina River. For that to become reality non-Serbs had to be physically removed.
In order to achieve that the Yugoslav Army joined forces with Serbian nationalists and extremists loyal to Radovan Karadzic, together with Serbian security forces as well as paramilitary units from Serbia and attacked towns and hamlets across eastern Bosnia, in a few weeks most of eastern Bosnia was in Serb hands and Serb forces backed by the Yugoslav Army were tightening their grip on Sarajevo. Only a few towns remained in eastern Bosnia, Srebrenica, Gorazde, Zepa and the hamlets of Cerska and Konjevic Polje. As spring turned into summer, those places would become isolated and filled with refugees and survivors from other towns in eastern Bosnia. Places like Bjeljina,Vlasenica, Visegrad, Bratunac, Rudo, Cajnice, Foca, Rogatica Zvornik. They had been witnesses too and many of them had escaped death. They told stories of mass executions, rape camps, sexual slavery, torture, eliticide, and all out destruction. All that was Muslim, or Bosniak or rather non-Serb had to be wiped of the map.
The same was taking place in northern and north-west Bosnia. Towns of Prijedor, Kozarac, Sanski Most, Trnopolje, Omarska would soon become synonymous with terror and death.
The past is never far away in Bosnia and that the Bosnian society has yet to come to terms with what happened during the war. Now when I say “Bosnian society” I mean all parts of it, including Republika Srpska as much as some, above all the current political leadership spearheaded by pragmatist and opportunist turned nationalist, separatist and genocide denier Milorad Dodik would like to convince others but above all the Serbs in Republika Srpska that it´s not. He has said openly that he will never accept that what happened in Srebrenica was an act of genocide, most recently, in september of 2012 during an election rally for his party SNSD in Srebrenica, he stood at the podium and said that he did not believe that what had happened in the very town that he was in, was in fact genocide. Yet the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague has thus far, convicted four people for genocide in Srebrenica, Radislav Krstic the former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army´s Drina Corps, as well as high ranking officers Ljubisa Beara and Vujadin Popvic and most recently Zdravko Tolimir, Ratko Mladic´s head of military intelligence. Radovan Karadzic and Mladic are both currently on trial for crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, amongst those crimes are persecution kidnapping murder and genocide.
In 2007 the ICJ (International Court of Justice) ruled that what had happened in Srebrenica indeed was genocide and that not only was it genocide but that Serbia was in a position to stop the genocide but had failed to do so. Most recently Bosnian courts ruled that Zeljko Ivanovic was guilty of aiding and abetting genocide by participating in the mass execution of over 1000 captured Bosniaks in the village of Kravica. In 2011 Bosnian Court uppheld the guilty verdict of one Milorad Trbic, he had been a member of the Zvornik Brigade in the Army of Republika Srpska. Trbic was found guilty of the criminal offence of genocide, as a participant in a joint criminal enterprise, in the period from 12 July to 30 November 1995, together with Colonel Ljubisa Beara, Lieutenant Colonel Vujadin Popovic, Lieutenant Drago Nikolic and others, with a common purpose and a plan to capture, detain, summarily execute and bury all able-bodied Bosniak men from the Srebrenica enclave, who were brought to the Zvornik Brigade area of responsibility. His sentence of 30 years was uppheld. Trbic was transferred from the Hague to stand trial in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Outside of Srebrenica, leader of a Serb paramilitary group operating in the Doboj region; Nikola Jorgic was found guilty of the crime of genocide by a German court in 1997. Jorgic was sentenced to four terms of life imprison for his involvement in the Bosnian genocide. Pronouncing the verdict, the German Federal Court said that German courts had the right “to try genocide indictees, no matter where the crime was committed”. Jorgic appealed the decision to the European Court of Human Rights which dismissed Jorgic´s claim and found that the standards used by the German court were indeed valid.
On 29th of November 1999 the Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht) in Dusseldorf convicted a Bosnian Serb Paramilitary leader Maksim Sokolovic to 9 years in prison for aiding and abetting the crime of genocide and for grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions in the Kalesija region. Sokolovic appealed the conviction claiming that the court in Dusseldorf had no jurisdiction over his case; however the Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof) rejected Sokolovic´s argument since the crimes of which he was accused of fall under the principle of universal jurisdiction. As a consequence, a foreigner could be tried by a German court for crime of genocide committed on foreign territory.
Yet that has not stopped Milorad Dodik, in 2011 he announced that he would be setting up a fund in order to help those Bosnian Serbs that were on trial at the ICTY including Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic. He also complimented Karadzic, saying he “made mistakes, but should be credited for establishing Republika Srpska. RS was founded because of his courage.” He has during his time in office spent a great deal of tax funds on denying the basic facts about the Genocide in Srebrenica using the help of a group of Hague based pseudo-experts calling themselves The Srebrenica Historical Project and is registered as an NGO ( Non-Government-Organization) sadly for him those experts have yet to present any concrete evidence refuting the facts about the genocide, facts established during a 17-year period. The outfit´s front man is a Serb-American from Seattle called Stephan Karganovic.
Prior to establishing himself as the front figure of “The Srebrenica Historical Project” he had worked as a translator and was member of the convicted war criminal Momcilo Krajisnik´s defense team, in the Hague before promoting himself as a “truth teller” refuting the “myth of genocide” in fact he has as I said before yet to prove anything, but that´s not why he is where he is.
People like Karganovic serve a purpose, in reality nobody, not even Milorad Dodik expects him to actually prove anything, he can´t. If he could you would have heard about it long ago. He is however expected to maintain the illusion that Serbia, and Republika Srpska are innocent victims of conspiracy intended to keep Serbia and Serbs at bay. And that what is going on is a continued aggression against Serbia by ”Western Imperialists”, the USA, Great Britain, CIA, the Vatican, IMF, Germany and their agents and ”homegrown traitors” the Croats and Bosniaks intent on keeping Serbia and Serbs at heel, one way is to falsely accuse them of committing genocide and hence becoming ”a genocidal nation” on par with Germany, a concern expressed by the godfather of contemporary Serb nationalism Dobrica Cosic in 2010 right about the same time as the Serbian Assembly was preparing to vote on European parliament’s resolution condemning the genocide in Srebrenica, Cosic claimed that ”Serbia should never accept the lies about Serbs committing genocide in Bosnia’, because this would make the Serbs a genocidal nation on a par with Nazi Germany”. (Pecat, 12 February 2010.)
The most telling example of Srebrenica Historical project’s real purpose could be seen during Pelemis/Simic trial.
The two men were accused of involvement in the mass killings that took place in the villages of Pilica and Branjevo after the fall of Srebrenica. Karganovics neuro-forensic expert Ljubisa Simic participated as an “expert witness” for Slavko Perics defense in order to refute the DNA-identifications that had been conducted on the remains in Branjevo. Under cross-examination by State Prosecutor Erik Larson, neurosurgeon Simic, who testified in his in the role as a medical expert, said that; “his name was not included on the list of court experts, he has not passed a specialist exam and he had not testified at any trial before. He confirmed that no organization had certified him as an expert witness in forensic medicine, pathology, or DNA analysis. He had not participated in any exhumations, had never had performed an autopsy on his own and he had never performed an identification using DNA analysis. Simic confirmed that he worked for the “Srebrenica Historical Project” but could not confirm that his role in the organization was to deny the genocide in Srebrenica. “I deal with medical issues at that organization,” Simic said. (See: Pelemis/Peric trial 2012)
Most recently Karganovic could be found harrasing American journalist and fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) Michael Dobbs on Dobbs’ Foreign Policy Blog “Origins of Evil” a blog devoted to Ratko Mladic and the genocide in Srebrenica. Dobbs´s plan was to more or less devote most of his time digging into Mladic´s past and slowly blogpost by blogpost explain the “origins of evil”, simply put; Dobbs wanted to show what led Mladic and the Bosnian Serbs to commit the single biggest atrocity on European Soil since World War Two. Sadly Dobbs approach left a lot to be desired, in my opinion his efforts were lackluster and feeble and many of his posts were frankly pointless, and sub-tabloid level.
His naïve and let´s say “uninvolved” approach led him down some strange paths, and it all culminated last September when he was criticized by myself and others for his naive views on militant Serb nationalism and Slobodan Milosevic´s expansionist policies and deadly experiments with nationalism that ended in the violent death of Yugoslavia and more importantly in the death of thousands that stood in the way of Milosevic´s attempts to carve out a Greater Serbia and a state for all Serbs on the ruins of former Yugoslavia. Now Yugoslavia, would have most likely fallen apart anyway, as a direct consequence of the fall of communism in Europe, but few would disagree that if it hadn´t been for Milosevic that breakup would have gone peacefully. As for Dobbs, well he tried but simply did not have anything interesting or relevant to say on Mladic or Srebrenica.
To Dobbs credit he did however try to stand up to Karganovic and his associates who plagued the comments section and used it as forum to spew out their conspiracy theories and revisionism. Dobbs had at his disposal the large amount of research and documentation collected on the genocide in Srebrenica over the past 17-years. In one glorious moment last July he pointed out to the fact that Karganovic´s outfit had by then ( July 2012) received in total 1 million US dollars from the government of Republika Srpska and that the nature of The Srebrenica Historical project was to perpetuate genocide denial. in July 2012 Dobbs wrote the following:
It turns out that genocide denial has a price tag — and a hefty one at that. Financial records from the Bosnian Serb entity known as Republika Srpska reveal that a Hague-based group of pseudo-experts that calls itself the “Srebrenica Historical Project” has received more than $1 million from the cash-strapped mini-state over the past five years. Question, and in many cases deny, basic historical facts concerning massacres carried out by Bosnian Serb forces under the command of General Ratko Mladic in July 1995.
An exhaustive international investigation of the Srebrenica events, involving teams of forensic pathologists, DNA specialists, demographic experts, and detectives has established that Bosnian Serb forces murdered around 7,000 Muslim (Bosniak) prisoners in a series of massacres between July 12 and July 16, 1995. A further 1,000 or so Muslim men and boys were killed as a result of ambushes and armed clashes as they tried to reach Muslim-controlled territory north of Srebrenica.
What is most alarming about the Srebrenica Historical Project is not that there are people out there claiming that black is white, but that the denial industry is being financed by the Bosnian Serb authorities. A rough analogy might be the German government and parliament voting every year to fund the research of David Irving and other revisionist Holocaust historians.
As British journalist George Monbiot pointed out 2012 ; “In order for these people to be right the entire canon of serious scholarship, human rights investigations, exhumations and witness statements would have to be wrong. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. But they offer little but the recycled claims of genocidaires and genocide deniers, mashed up with their own misrepresentations” In his response to another set of Milosevic apologist and genocide deniers. Those of the internationalist left, most notably Edward Herman and David Peterson, as well as Noam Chomsky and John Pilger.
Needless to say, Dobbs article drew fire from Karganovic and rest of the creepy-crawlies of the “Great Serb” genocide-denial lobby that quickly rushed to the comment section to attack him, and that is where Karganovic and his sympathizers are most at home. People like Karganovic look for certain things, that they can isolate and latch on too, picking selective portions of evidence and deliberately miss-quoting witnesses in order to spread doubt, They cater to a specific kind of crowd, people like Karganovic, Nebojsa Malic, Srdja Trifkovic. None of their followers really demand of them to present any evidence for their theories but then again they don´t really have to try very hard. They tend to preach to the choir, of Serb nationalists, far-right extremists, people that hate the west or ”anti-imperialists” conspiracy theorists and and ideologues to whom human life is less valuable then the notion of a “Yugoslavia as the last socialist country in the Balkans” under threat from “The Empire” meaning the west and above all the hated USA. These are the kind of people that deny Srebrenica happened at the same time as they secretly and sometime not so secretly glorify and/or openly justify that it did happened. Simply because they wanted the Serbs and their cause to win. Nevermind the victims of Serb fascism…
The most extreme example of that is Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist whose Balkan obsession and his hatred towards Islam and Muslims spills out over the pages of his manifesto 2083: A European Declaration of Independence. A look thru the manifesto shows that he had a unhealthy obsession with the Balkans and admiration for the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic who Breivik considers to be a “honorable Crusader and a European war hero” for his efforts to rid Europe of Muslims. (Radovan Karadzic is currently on trial same as Ratko Mladic for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and crimes that were perpetrated against the civilian population and against places of worship throughout the territory of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovinia, ) As well revealing that altogether, the words “Serb” shows up 341 times, “Bosnia” 343 and “Albania” 208 times while Srebrenica, the site of the biggest massacre in former Yugoslavia after WWII does not appear anywhere in the document.
To Breivik, Radovan Karadzic is a hero, and his delusions mirror those of others on the far right, and Serb nationalist circles in the sense that they view what happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a struggle against ”the genocidal hate ideology known as Islam” as Breivik puts it. In that sense all the atrocities committed against Muslims or Bosniaks in Bosnia can be explained away and justified by the need to get rid of Islam and Muslims. The murder of men women elderly, the rape of women and young girls, torture, setting up of concentration camps and mass killings and deportation perpetrated against a specific groups are justifiable as self-defense as long it´s committed against a feared and hated enemy that has to be eliminated in order to protect Serbs and Serbia against “Muslim genocide” or in Breiviks case Europe and Western Civilization. Therefore people like Karadzic and Mladic are heros and crusaders and any crimes they might have committed against non-Muslims are regrettable or as Breivik himself puts it:
He (Karadzic) even went as far as offering the Muslims certain enclaves. When they refused he wanted to deport them by force. When this was made impossible by NATO he gave the order to fight the person who refused which was his sovereign right and responsibility as one of the primary leaders of Serb forces. This was never about ethnicity but about ridding the country of the genocidal hate ideology known as Islam. I do condemn any atrocities committed against Croats and vice versa but for his efforts to rid Serbia of Islam he will always be considered and remembered as an honorable Crusader and a European war hero.
Oddly enough he is sort of right that it was never really about ethnicity, when it came to the actual reasons for the war, but not for the reasons he thinks, it was not about ridding Europe of Islam but a simple land grab, orchestrated by Milosevic his close associates and a cadre of JNA generals in Belgrade loyal to Milosevic, who´s prime motive was power, if he could not make himself ruler of Yugoslavia, then he would be the creater of a new “Greater” Serbia as a home for all Serbs. There was however a need to convince people, above all Serbs and to instill fear into them about ”the others” mainly Bosniaks, Slovenes, Croats and Kosovars. For that there was a need to control the media in former Yugoslavia. As Borisav Jovic, a former Milosevic aid and probably his closest associate wrote in his book, ”The Last Days of SFRY”
For years, he (Milosevic) paid the biggest attention to the media, especially television. He personally appointed editors-in-chief of the newspapers and news programmers – especially directors-general of radio and television. “Perhaps in no other area was he in direct communication with all editors who “fed” the public with the news comments and generally with the information. He was deeply convinced that citizens formed their view not on basis of their real material and their political position what was not published has not happened at all – was Milosevic`s motto
During the Milosevic trial the Trial Chamber heard from Professor Renaud de la Brosse, a propaganda expert from the University of Reims in France who took the stand as part of the prosecution’s effort to prove a link between what the media said and war crimes perpetrated on the battlefield. de la Brosse had studied some 20,000 pages of newspaper articles, transcripts of television and radio broadcast from the former Yugoslavia in order to produce his 100-page raport called; “Political Propaganda and the Plan to Create a State for all Serbs”
According to de la Brosse; Milosevic’s propaganda was based on the same techniques as used by Adolf Hitler, with the added power of television. ”Nazi propaganda had shown that myths bind the masses together tightly. Indeed, it was through myths and, therefore, the appeal to the forces of the unconscious, to fear and terror, the instinct of power and the lost community that the propaganda orchestrated by Goebbels had succeeded in winning over the Germans and melding them into a compact mass”
In 1990 in order to facilitate Slobodan Milosevic´s takeover of control of Kosovo, Serbian television launched a campaign of generalizations and lies against the Kosovars, accusing them of “poisoning wells” and “slitting throats of children” and then following it up with a campaign in the newspaper Politika which published readers’ letters, often made up, by Politika staff that “the Albanians were raping hundreds of Serb women there” . On February 9 1990 Vojislav K. Stojanovic president of the University Teachers and Scholars of Serbia wrote that “the savage Albanian terrorists are now running amok in Kosovo and Metohija destroying anything that is Serbian, breaking into homes of the few Serbs that have stayed behind, Kosovo and Metohija are in the grip of fear by terrorists armed to the teeth.”
Even Slobodan Milosevic participated in the stigmatization of the Kosovar community by proclaiming that “Even children know the truth about Kosovo and Serbia, so it´s quit superfluous to say anything more about it. To those that think otherwise, I should say that I refuse to talk about because we need never to try and find excuses to stop the murder of Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo and for our unwillingness to accept an Albanian state on Serbian territory. To avoid further confusion I hasten to add that anyone seeking concessions along those lines would have to first depose the ruling Serbian leadership”
Another example of propaganda “winning over the Serbs and melding them into a compact mass,” that de la Brosse Points too is the is the story of the so called “baby-massacre” from November 1991, in a suburb close to Vukovar, called Borovo Naselje. As the siege of Vukovar was drawing to an end Serbian media reported that soldiers from the JNA had found the bodies of 41 massacred Serbian children, in village that had fallen days before. The story turned out to be untrue, and even the JNA was forced to issue a public denial, yet it was given widespread coverage by the Milosevic controlled media, who did not try to verify the story of the children having their “throats slit by blood thirsty Croats” even though all of the children had in fact been evacuated from that village months before and no schools had been open for a long time in that area.
That was not important, the story served a purpose, and it was there to enforce the image of Croats as “bloodthirsty genocidal maniacs” and undermines those that were opposed to the war. In fact when the story broke, a number of anti-war demonstrations were taking place in Belgrade. People in Serbia, above all parents who had family members serving in the JNA were opposed the ongoing campaign in Croatia. The story did well to silence those that opposed the war, and it would also lead to a flood of Serb volunteers going to the Croatian front.
Another such example was the story of Serb children being fed to lions at the Sarajevo Zoo. The story goes that due to the siege of Sarajevo; for which “the bloody thirsty Muslims” in Sarajevo were themselves responsible, there was a shortage of food and other supplies in the city so the Muslims were feeding Serbian children to the starving lions. The “news” was carried by TV Pale, and Risto Djogo, the official voice of the Karadzic regime. The news was also picked up by Serbian media, SRNA and TANJUG reported the story with any sort of checks being made in order to verify the story. Viewers in Belgrade got to see and above all hear on the 19:30 news that; “The Muslim extremists have come up with the world’s most horrible way of torturing people. Last night they threw Serb children to the lions at the local zoo, reports the Serb patrol”
In 1994 Serbian newspaper Vecernje Novosti published a story about a Serb orphan whose whole family was killed by Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) in the area around Srebrenica. The story came with a photo of the boy, lying down next to what was described as his family´s grave, the text under the photo read; “The biggest casualties of war are children, that is the case as well in this most recent one, a one in which the Serbian people are again fighting for their very existence. The picture which had the year before circulated the globe, is that of a graveyard in Skelani, (near Srebrenica) on which this boy, now an orphan is crying on the graves of his mother father and rest of his family, “that were killed in a Muslim offensive” is still shocking those who know about the suffering of children. The boy has however in the meantime been adopted by a family in Zvornik and is a member of a military school”
The photo was in fact a forgery, in reality it is a 19th century oil painting by Serbian painter Uros Predic known as ”Orphan Upon His Mother’s Grave”, it was painted in 1879, the painting was made as an illustration for a poem by Hungarian poet Janos Arany.
If one were to de-construct the text under the “photo” or the painting it go something like this, in order convince people in Serbia about righteousness of their cause, there is no better way of doing that then focusing on the suffering of small children in this case a small boy, abandoned and helpless whose parents were only killed because they were Serbs. And that their struggle is now much like it was in past wars justified, since they are simply struggling to survive and fighting a ruthless enemy bent on destroying the whole of the Serb nation. By adding that the picture circulated the globe, which is not true, and that it caused outrage and shock, it even more re-affirms that the Serbian cause is just, and there is hope and that they should not give up the fight, since the poor boy isn’t going to, there is after all a silver lining; he has enlisted in military high school.
The situation was of course drastically different in the Srebrenica region, then Vecernje Novosti led the Serb public to believe nowhere was at as bad as in Eastern Bosnia and in particular the area around Srebrenica. From the beginning of the war the town had been isolated from the rest of Bosnian-controlled territory. It was one of few towns’ hamlets and villages that had escaped the onslaught of the Yugoslav Army and various Serb paramilitary units that had made their way from Serbia to join forces with nationalists and extremists loyal to Radovan Karadzic. The other ones in the area were Cerska and Konjevic Polje, and to the south Zepa and further along the Drina river Gorazde. In November 1992 Radovan Karadzic signed Directive 4 ordering the Drina corps of the Bosnian Serb army to engage the enemy with the intent of; “wearing out the enemy and forcing them to leave Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde areas together with the inhabitants…” The plan was implemented during the month of January 1993, slowly Bosnian Serb forces with the help of the Yugoslav Army chipped away at the territory that Bosnians had managed to defend during the initial invasion of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Altogether some 10 000 Bosnian Serb Soldiers with the help of the reformed Yugoslav Army (VJ) participated in the offensive on the isolated Bosniak enclaves. Two of the smallest enclaves fell in March 1993, Cerska and Konjevic Polje after bitter fighting, the Bosnian defenders isolated and without access to food or ammunition were forced to retreat together with civilians, women children and elderly into Srebrenica which was slowly becoming the world´s biggest refugee camp with some 40 000 people trapped inside.
One of those that witnessed what was going on in Srebrenica was former Venezuealan ambassador to the UN, Diego Arria. He testified as defense witness at the trial of the Bosnian commander in the enclave Naser Oric and as a prosecution witness at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic. Arria arrived in Srebrenica in April 1993. According to Arria, what was taking place in Srebrenica then was a form of “genocide in slow motion” Bosniaks in Srebrenica and surrounding villages were exposed to “extreme poverty, destruction, starvation and squalor” that were according to Arria deliberately being withheld from the public by the UN. Arria managed to take the first photographs of of the destruction of Srebrenica and its starving inhabitants. Hundreds of people that had fled the surrounding villages were now living on the streets of Srebrenica, a town that before the war had some 8000 inhabitants. To stay warm they burned trash, plastic bags, and everything else they could get their hands on, as the children wandered thru the streets, shivering in their tattered sweaters and worn out shoes and smelling of excrament and smoke and sweat. The photographs taken by Arria were the only ones in existence at the time. He refused to hand over his camera to UN troops in Srebrenica. According to Arria the international community “did not move its little finger” to protect the Bosniaks in the enclave and “did not make it possible for them to defend themselves”
In fact the UN was withholding reports that showed the true situation in Srebrenica. For that Arria blames UN Secratery General Boutros Ghali and his staff who according to Arria misinformed the Security Council about the situation in the enclave. It was not until after an appeal by the then UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata that the report on the humanitarian disaster in Srebrenica was shown to the Security Council. Diego Arria warned of a “potential massacre in which there could be 25,000 victims.” Arria went on to say; “it was clear that it was just a matter of time before the massacre would happen” or before the “slow-motion genocide” would become a “real genocide.” The United Nations, according to Arria; was unwilling to do anything to prevent that.
The reason for that is that there was in the tendency in The Security Council to as Arria puts it “morally equate the victims and the aggressor” the reason for that was that it made it more simple not to take action to prevent the atrocities, if you gave the impression that all sides are equally at fault, well then why should the International Community intervene on anyone´s behalf? In fact according to Arria the UN had been hoping that the Serbs would overrun the enclave, before it became a “safe area” and thus “solving the problem” the fact that the Bosnian defenders saw things differently created a problem for the UN. On April 16 after heavy fighting the Bosnian lines held. Naser Oric and his men had launched a desperate counter-attack in the hills above Srebrenica with the few artillary shells they had left and manged to push the Serbs back, on that same day Srebrenica was declared a “safe area” with an ambivalent UN tasked to protect it if Serb forces tried to re-take it. That ambivalence was on full display in July 1995 as was the willingness of the international community to end the arms embargo against Bosnia…
Or as former British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd put it; “lifting the arms embargo would only create a level killing field” a statement that prompted a response from a retired Margaret Thatcher who pointed to the obvious, the fact that there was already in Europe a killing field in Bosnia “killing field the like of which I thought we would never see in Europe again It is in Europe’s sphere of influence. It should be in Europe’s sphere of conscience”. The arms embargo imposed on the countries in the former Yugoslavia only hurt one country, and that was Bosnia, Croatia could easily purchase weapons despite the embargo from any of the neighboring countries, and Serbia, well it had inherited the vast arsenal of the former Yugoslav People´s Army which was flowing freely across the border into the hands of the Bosnian Serbs. The chief opposition to arming the defending Bosnian Army or lifting the arms embargo came from UK and France, according to Robert Hunter, the former US ambassador to NATO; Britain has the greatest responsibility when it comes to this, “they carry a huge burden of responsibility for what happened at Srebrenica.” claimed Hunter.
The Americans had tried to ease the arms embargo against the Bosnian Army, the new administration under Clinton had sought to at least “relax” the arms embargo which they considered was punishing the weakest, most victimized nation; Bosnia and Herzegovina. Unlike the Serbs and Croats in Bosnia which had the support of Croatia and Serbia, the Bosnian Army was hopelessly landlocked. The Bosnian government wanted the arms embargo lifted in order to defend it people and country, but according to Clinton, his proposals for the relaxation of the arms embargo were blocked by US allies in Europe. Mainly the UK and France.
According to Clinton the offical reason they gave was that that as Douglas Hurd said before it would create a “level killing field” more guns in the area meant more bloodshed. However according to Clinton the real reason for the objection was the fact that Bosnia as a predominantly Muslim country would be “unnatural” in Europe. In Taylor Branchs book “The Clinton Tapes” (2009) Clinton discussed openly the role US European allies played in the destruction of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They wanted the arms embargo precisely because it locked in Bosnia´s disadvantage. What´s even worse according to Clinton was that they used the UN forces on the ground as an excuse, claiming that the options the Clinton administration proposed in order to save the Bosnian state and stop the ongoing genocide would endanger UN troops on the ground as well as jeopardizing emergency shipments of food and medical supplies that were being delivered to a population that was on a daily basis being subjected to a terror campaign and was not allowed to defend itself. In other words; the UN troops in Bosnia were being used in order to facilitate the dismemberment of the Bosnian state.
Clinton claimed that French president Francois Mitterrand had said to him that “Bosnia quite simply did not belong,” and that British diplomats in private spoke of a “painful but realistic restoration of Christian Europe” Such Anti-Muslim and bigoted views could of course not be uttered openly but it shows why the carnage and the dismemberment of the Bosnian state was allowed to happen. Bosnia and Herzegovina or more to the point a predominantly “Muslim Bosnia” did not belong and as painful as it was, it had to disappear. That´s where the biggest betrayal of Bosnia and Herzegovina lied, in their fear of a “Muslim Bosnia” French and British diplomats had missed the fact that at the beginning of the war some 25-30 percent of the Bosnian Army consisted of non-Muslims or non-Bosniaks, that at the highest levels of command, there were both Serbs and Croats, people like Jovan Divjak, Stjepan Siber, Zeljko Knez a Croat who was the first Commander of the Bosnian Army´s Second Corps, Divjak a Serb was the Bosnian Army´s second in command, there were also men like Dragan Vikic, (a Croat) Head of the interior ministry, Zoran Cegar his deputy, (a Serb) but above all those anonymous soldiers manning the trenchers, together with Bosniak soldiers, forced to fight with their hands tied behind their back depending on what they could beg steal or borrow, or more accurately what they could capture from the Serb nationalists who had no such problems, they had come to the war armed to the teeth courtesy of the former Yugoslav People´s Army.
The diplomats had also missed or decided to ignore people like, Stjepan Kljuic, Gordana Knezevic, Mirko Pejanovic to name a few more prominent non-Bosniaks who in their own way fought and still fight for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Those are of course the more prominent ones as is the case with the Bosnian Army soldiers many unnamed heroes fought and still fight the good fight. They were, we were all betrayed and for every shell that was fired and for every day the embargo was in effect the very fabric of Bosnian society was being ripped apart. So yes, it was indeed painful.
However nowhere was as painful as it was in Srebrenica, heroic Srebrenica that had withstood the initial Serb onslaught, it had withstood the intial invasion of Serbian forces into Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Karadzic´s extremists and the genocidal campaign that followed. It had whitstood the final solution sanctioned by France and Great Britain which had cleared most of the Drina valley north-west Bosnia, eastern Bosnia of its non-Serb population, it had become a safe haven for those that had escaped certain death, those that had escaped rape camps, and torture from all across the Drina Valley as well as other parts of eastern Bosnia, it was together with Zepa and Gorazde the last of the free territory in eastern Bosnia.
The fact is that the picture of the “Orphaned Boy” published in Vecernje Novosti was there to mobilize and galvanize the Serb people against their enemy. It is also a way of inciting hate that can have, and has had horrible consequences. It´s not difficult to understand Serbs reading, listening and above all watching the reports coming in from Croatia and Bosnia about various atrocities committed against Serbs by Bosniaks and Croats, wanting to take revenge on the perpetrators. According to de la Brosse Serbian media used certain words to stir up defensive reaction amongst the Serbs. Words like “Ustasha Fascists” and “cut-throats” were used to stigmatize Croats and “Islamic Ustasha” or “Jihad Fighters” to stigmatize the Bosniaks. de la Brosse also pointed to the fact that the JNA (Yugoslav People´s Army) had during the fighting in Croatia issued memos ordering that all enemies be called “Ustasha”.
During the genocidal campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina the Serbian Television, according to de la Brosse more or less banished the use of the word ”Bosnian” or more to the point ”Bosnian Forces” On August 17 1992 Serbian journalist Branko Elez called Bosnian forces;”Islamic Fundamentalists” ”Islamic Chauvinists” and branded them as”cruel hordes of Alija” (Alija Izetbegovic, the Bosnian president)
Bosnian Army soldiers were referred to as; ”Warriors of Allah” armed by Saddam Hussein, ”conducting a holy war in the name of Islam” even though Saddam Hussein had established a secular dictatorship in Iraq, but that did not matter, most Serbs did not know the nature of Saddam Hussein´s regime, they did however know that he was a Muslim, and an Arab and that would for some be enough. Ironically Saddam Hussein and Muamar Gadafi had on several occasions bought weapons and jet engines including spare parts from Milosevic´s regime and his cronies in Republika Srpska as well as playing host to Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the Serb Radical Party back in 2001 when Seselj along with a delegation from the Serb Radical Party including current Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vucic visited Iraq.
In June 1993 Swedish journalist Peter Kadhammar traveled to Pale, the former ski-resort that during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina served as war-time capitol of Republika Srpska. Kadhammars first impression of Mladic was that of a commander at the very peak of his power, he exuded self-confidence and it was obvious that he was the most powerful man in the Bosnian Serb Army. “ I am the Cassius Clay of war” he claimed “ I can knock anybody out, but I am a merciful man” According to Kadhammar he loved to talk about his victories and how he back then in 1993 was in the control of the fate of the Bosniak population in Srebrenica. Kadhammar recalls that Mladic as a joke suggested to Kadhammar that the Bosniak (Muslim) population of Bosnia and Herzegovina would be better of relocating the Swedish archipelago, and the world was conspiring against the Serbs. This whole war was a conspiracy against the Serbs. At one point, Kadhammar asked Mladic if he knew how many people had been killed by Mladic´s men in Sarajevo, Mladic´s response was “that those were not people, those are Muslims”
After the Serb takeover of Prijedor, a town in northwest Bosnia, the Serb-controlled media in Prijedor both broadcast and printed media spread stories about non-Serbs, particularly a doctor named Mirsad Mujadzic who was a member of the SDA, the main Bosniak political party in Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to the reports in the Serb-controlled media, Dr Mujadzic was accused of “injecting drugs into Serb women making them incapable of giving birth to male children” Another doctor, a Croat named Zeljko Sikora referred to as the “Monster Doctor”, was accused of making Serb women abort if they were pregnant with male children and of castrating the male babies of Serb parents.
During the trial of Milomir Stakic, the former mayor of Serb-controlled Prijedor, the Trial Chamber saw proof that the weekly known as “Kozarski Vjesnik” became the voice of the local Serb authorities. The director of “Kozarski Vjesnik” and and “Radio Prijedor” Mile Mutic and journalist Rade Mutic regulary showed up at the meetings of the “Serbian Crisis Staff”, the “National Defence Council,” or the “Executive Committee” During the Stakic trial the prosecution tendered into evidence minutes of the Municipal Board of the SDS in Prijedor from 30 April 1991 session record showed that the Secretary of the Serbian Municipal Assembly, Dusan Baltic, put forward the opinion that “Kozarski Vjesnik” should be brought under the control of the SDS, Radovan Karadzic party. After the Serbian takeover of Prijedor, most of the articles were aimed at discrediting and undermining the credibility of prominent non-Serbs in Prijedor. In an article published on 10th on June 1992 Dr. Osman Mahmuljin (a Bosniak) was accused of deliberately having provided incorrect medical care to his Serb colleague Dr. Zivko Dukic, who had a heart attack. According to Kozarski Vjesnik; Dr. Dukic’s life was saved only because Dr. Radojka Elenkov (Serb) discontinued the therapy allegedly initiated by Dr. Mahmuljin.
Radio Prijedor also broadcasted forged “biographies of prominent non-Serbs”, including Prof. Muhamed Cehajic, Dr. Eso Sadikovic and Dr. Osman Mahmuljin in order to discredit them. According to the Trial Chamber, after the Serb takeover, Radio Prijedor mostly played Serb nationalist songs and broadcast propaganda against the main Bosniak party in Bosnia, the SDA and prominent non-Serbs characterizing them as “criminals and extremists who should be punished for their behavior”
Others frequently interviewed by “Radio Prijedor” were Milan Kovacevic Dusko Tadic and Simo Drljaca. Kovacevic was the President of the Executive Committee of the Municipal Assembly of Prijedor. In 1996 he was indicted by the ICTY for genocide, for complicity in genocide, extermination, persecutions, torture, deportation. For murder; cruel treatment; torture; wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity. For willful killing; torture; willfully causing great suffering; unlawful deportation or transfer; extensive destruction of property and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. Kovacevic was indicted together with Simo Drljaca, who served as the chief of police in Prijedor. According to the indictment during the period from 30 April 1992 to 31 December 1992 Drljaca was both a member of the municipality of Prijedor Crisis Staff and the Chief of the Public Security Station (SJB) for the municipality of Prijedor.
According to the indictment Kovacevic and Drljaca ordered and implemented a plan designed to expel Bosniak and Croat population from what had been proclaimed to be “Serb Territory” The plan consisted limiting the movement of the Bosniak and Croat populations to their villages, and then ordering or initiating attacks on those areas by combined forces of the 43rd Brigade and other Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) units, Territorial Defence (TO) units from Prijedor, regular and reserve police members from Prijedor, and paramilitary units organized and equipped by the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS).
Those civilians captured in these attacks were usually taken to Omarska, Keraterm or Trnopolje which were called “detention camps” by the authorities but in fact resembled in many ways the concentration camps set up in WWII by the Nazis, the prisoners in those camps were subjected to daily physical abuse, sexual abuse of both male and female prisoners as well as young girls. Torture and murder were also common place. According to the indictment, Serb forces under the control of the Prijedor Crisis Staff systematically looted and destroyed Bosniak and Croat villages and property, including homes, businesses, mosques and churches. The destruction was so extensive that nothing but portions of buildings and rubble were all that remained in many of villages of the area and not one mosque was left standing in the towns of Prijedor and Kozarac. To the detriment of the victims Milan Kovacevic died in 1998, not having received a verdict. Simo Drljaca, was killed in an attempt to arrest him in 1997 near Omarska.
Dusko Tadic who served as President of the Local Board of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) in neighboring Kozarac was arrested in Germany in 1994 and transferred to the hague to stand trial, the Trial Chamber found convicted him of “Willful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health” Tadic was also found guilty of participating in the in the forced transfer of civilians into “Detention Camps” or more appropriately concentration camps such as Omarska Trnopolje and Keraterm. The Tadic verdict was also the first legal confirmation that what happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina was indeed and International conflict. The Yugoslav Army was in fact in control of the Bosnian Serb Army, according to the Appeals Chamber verdict ;
Tadic, (Appeals Chamber), July 15, 1999, paras. 156, 162: “It is sufficient to show that [the Yugoslav Army] exercised overall control over the Bosnian Serb Forces. Such control manifested itself not only in financial, logistical and other assistance and support, but also, and more importantly, in terms of participation in the general direction, coordination and supervision of the activities and operations of the VRS [the Army ofthe Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina/Republika Srpska]. This sort of control is sufficient for the purposes of the legal criteria required by international law.” “[F]or the period material to this case (1992), the armed forces of the Republika Srpska were to be regarded as acting under the overall control of and on behalf of the FRY [the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)]. Hence, even after 19 May 1992 the armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina between the Bosnian Serbs and the central authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina must be classified as an international armed conflict.” See also Tadic, (Appeals Chamber), July 15, 1999, para. 87.
Milomir Stakic who had been the Vice-President of the Prijedor Municipal Assembly as a member of the Serbian Democratic Party, was found guilty of murder, persecution, extermination and deportation, all crimes against humanity. Stakic rose to prominence, during the May 1992 Serb takeover of the municipality of Prijedor. According to the judgement;
the takeover was an illegal coup d’état which had been planned and coordinated for months and which had as its final goal the creation of a Serbian municipality eventually to form part of an envisaged pure Serbian state.
A comprehensive pattern of atrocities amounting to a campaign of a prosecutorial nature was proved to have been committed against non-Serbs in Prijedor municipality in 1992. This included killings on a massive scale in the Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje camps, in Bosniak towns and villages throughout the municipality, and, finally, on Mount Vlasic. The Trial Chamber held Dr. Stakic responsible for more than 1,500 killings and was able to identify by name 486 victims. Rapes, sexual assaults and beatings were committed at the camps and at least 20,000 non-Serbs either fled Prijedor or were deported
According to latest statistics 3173 people were killed in Prijedor in 1992, of those 102 were children, the youngest was a three month old baby, many of the children were killed from a close range. A total of 256 women were killed as well during the spring and summer of 1992, the most common killing grounds were the Concentration Camps in Omarska Keraterm and Trnopolje. The Dayton accords placed Prijedor Kozarac as well as Omarska Keraterm and Trnopolje with the entity of Republika Srpska. During the negations in Dayton in November 1995 the Bosnian delegation was forced to halt the Bosnian Army offensive which was in effect routing the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) the offensive stopped before the Bosnian Army could reach Prijedor, and all chances of recapturing Prijedor as well as Omarska and Trnopolje disappeared of the table.
Today twenty one years after the “ethnic cleansing” and mass murder of several thousand of Prijedors non-Serb inhabitants, albeit mostly Bosniaks, there is not a single monument dedicated to non-Serb victims in urban parts of Prijedor municipality. Today there is however some 60 monuments dedicated to “the soldiers who died in the homeland war, 1991-1995” or that they “courageously died for the fatherland of Republika Srpska” According to Haris Subasic from the Ministry for Issues of Veterans and Disabled Veterans of the Defensive-Liberation War of Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) this is due to a culture of denial that shapes the past, present and future memories of the crimes against humanity committed. For example the local government in Prijedor does not allow construction of monuments for non-Serb victims in those areas where Concentration Camps were located, Omarska Trnopolje Keraterm. Excuses used are that it would incite “inter-ethnic hatred” or that “there must be a minimum consensus on it at state level” Bosnia and Herzegovina today has no laws prohibiting genocide denial and the denial of war crimes, most attempts at passing such laws have been obstructed by SNSD, the party of Milorad Dodik.
The most of offensive example of genocide denial in Prijedor and the institutionalized culture of denial that is widespread throughout Republika Srpska is a monument erected at the site of the former concentration camp Trnopolje by the Serb-dominated local government. “The monument for all Serb soldiers who were killed” was erected in close proximity to the infamous concentration camp. Images from Trnopolje together with images from Omarska of have become iconic, in august 1992 as the first reporters were allowed to enter the gulag of concentration camps set by the Bosnian Serbs in the Prijedor area, they broadcasted to the world, the men and women of the concentration camps who were subjected to physical as well as mental abuse on a daily bases, many of the prisoners both male and female were subjected to sexual abuse, murder was commonplace. A female prisoner from Omarska identified only as “J” told Helsinki Watch investigators:
We saw corpses piled one on top of another…. The bodies eventually were gathered with a forklift and put onto trucks—usually two large trucks and a third, smaller truck. The trucks first would unload containers of food, and then the bodies would be loaded [on]…. This happened almost every day—sometimes there [were]…twenty or thirty—but usually there were more. Most of the deaths occurred as a result of beatings
(See: War Crimes in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Volume II, p. 103)
Ed Vulliamy of The Guardian was the first one in Omarska, describes his first meeting with prisoners of Omarska:
I don´t want to tell any lies, but I cannot tell the truth” says the young man emaciated, sunken-eyed and attacking his watery bean stew like a famished dog, his spindly hands shaking. The guards swinging their machine guns are watching and listening carefully. His name is Sabahudin Elezovic. “Let me eat my lunch first” he says “then I´ll talk” The stew in the aluminum bowl is gone within seconds, showed into his mouth with an old spoon clenched with difficulty by a rangy fist.
This is lunchtime at the Omarska concentration camp or “investigation center” run by the Bosnian Serb police for mainly Muslim internees near Prijedor. The prisoners are horribly thin raw bones; some are almost cadaverous with skin like parchment folded over their bones. Their faces are lantern-jawed and their eyes are haunted by the inimitable empty stare of the prisoner dumb with fear, who has no idea what is going to happen to him next. No one from the red cross the UN or the press has been this far inside the belly of the beast until the day we arrived at Omarska on Wednsday 5 august 1992
(Vulliamy: Seasons in Hell, 1994 Chapter Five, The Camps, Echoes of the Reich, page 98)
Trnopolje concentration camp like Omarska was set up by the Bosnian Serb military and police forces in the village of Trnopolje near Prijedor. Like Omarska the camp served as a prison camp for Bosniak s and Croats, and like Omarska many of the prisoners were subjected to physical and mental abuse. Many were also murdered. Trnopolje produced the most iconic image of the Bosnian genocide, the picture of emaciated prisoner Fikret Alic staring at the cameras behind the barb-wire fence.
No memorial has as of yet been erected to the victims of Trnopolje and Omarska, nor do survivors have the right to visit the former concentration camps when they choose, they are only granted access to the camps on the day of commemoration. Not that always happens, this year on May 25th survivor groups were not allowed to gather at the camp, they were not granted access to the camp by the local authorities. But that did not stop the survivors and their family members as well as family members of those that had lost loved ones in the camp. On May 26 about a hundred people gathered in front of the camp in order to commemorate the 21 years since the camps were first set up by the Bosnian Serb military and police forces. Something has however happened, staring last year a campaign under the name Stop Genocide Denial has been working to “to give a voice to victims of mass atrocities from around the world in their struggle for the truth, dignity and remembrance” as they put it. On 31th of May 2012 families of the victims of those killed in the Prijedor area gathered at the event called ‘White Ribbons Day’ the white ribbion, is symbolic, on May 31, 1992 the Bosnian Serb authorities in Prijedor issued a decree for all non-Serbs to mark their houses with white flags or sheets and to wear a white armband if they were to leave their houses.
The gathering had been banned at first by the mayor of Prijedor, Marko Pavic of the SDS, Radovan Karadzic former party. Pavic had expressed concern that the event would “undermine the town’s reputation”. Forgetting that the deaths of over 3000 of the towns citizens has yet to be honored in the town itself and the fact there was no statue or plaque anywhere to the 3173 dead civilians, men women and children. Pavic also objected to the use of the word “genocide” saying that the organizations were “politicizing” the commemoration. Obviously unaware that those that had lost their loved ones in the concentration camps had the right to call the commemoration whatever they wanted, Marko Pavic seemed totally also unaware of the fact that the ICTY had ruled that what had happened in Srebrenica was genocide, and that the International Court of Justice came to the same conclusion as well as the fact that courts in Germany had sentenced Serb paramilitaries for the crime of genocide in other places in Bosnia and Herzegovina. One of those convictions was upheld by the the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Pavic also seemed unaware that Milomir Stakic who had been the Vice-President of the Prijedor Municipal Assembly as a member of the Serbian Democratic Party, (SDS) was found guilty of murder, persecution, extermination and deportation, all crimes against humanity. Also there was no law in Bosnia and Herzegovina prohibiting victims and survivors from calling the commemoration of their fallen loved ones whatever they wanted. Sadly there is no law against genocide denial and denial of crimes against humanity either in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Though the gathering last year was relatively small, it had brought worldwide attention to the issue of genocide denial in Bosnia and the denial of crimes against humanity in Republika Srpska. The culture of denial has become institutionalized in Republika Srpska so much so that last year Amnesty International reported that the police in Prijedor had banned s march to commemorate the International Human Rights Day without giving any valid reason as to why they would do something like that. If the gathering in Prijedor last year was humble, the same cannot be said for the turn out this year, on May 31 hundreds of activists, from across Bosnia and Herzegovina, survivors and family members of the victims showed up at the town square in Prijedor. Bosnians from all across Bosnia had to show their support with citizens of Prijedor, the victims, the survivors and their families as the support from the world was pouring in. Marko Pavic true to form dismissed the fact Bosnians, now even across ethnic lines were starting to take a stand against genocide denial and the denial of war crimes and crimes against humanity. His responsse to the gathering of Bosnians in Prijedor was to dismiss it by calling it “nothing more then a gay pride parade” that kind of horrible homophobic remark shows the nature of the political scene in Republika Srpska, Pavic was simply trying win points with his racist, nationalist and above all homophobic constituance. For if the rights of victims of genocide and crimes agianst humanity rank low on the list of concerns in a Bosnia and Herzegovina imprisoned by Dayton, then the rights of the LGBT Community are non-existent. Sadly when it comes to the question of denying war crimes and genocide denial in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it does seem that Bosniaks have to face that struggle, despite positive signs from Prijedor for the time being anyway, more or less alone. Hopefully that will change in time.
When it comes to the ICTY, I have to admit to being a bit disillusioned to put it mildly, some have argued that after latest string of acquittals of high ranking officers by The Hague, most prominently Momcilo Perisic-Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic, that the legal record does not match the historical one. Well yes, sadly that is true. will say this; the ICTY has during its 20 years of existence compiled an enormous amount of documentation and above all evidence of who did what. The fact that the Trial Chamber could not convict those three men, does not mean that they are innocent, it means that the prosecutions case did not meet the current legal standards. Nor does it mean that crimes were not committed. However, when it comes to Stanisic and Simatovic, the reasoning of the court is astonishing, the standards set are ridiculosly high. In the case of Stanisic and Simatovic, as Eric Gordy points out; “The tormented reasoning of the tribunal’s 800-page verdict offers some fascinating reading: It affirms that crimes were committed and describes them in excruciating detail. It names the victims, names the perpetrators, and in most cases details the connections between the accused parties and the direct perpetrators. Then it declines to convict, on the ground that the evidence does not show that the support provided to the criminals was “specifically directed towards the commission of the crimes.”
One of the great achivments of the Perisic trial was that for the first time, we could see how the the Yugoslav Supreme Defense Council worked and those that were a part of it, including Momcilo Perisic, Zivota Panic, Blagoje Adzic, Momir Bulatovic, Dobrica Cosic, Radoje Kontic, as well as of course Slobodan Milosevic. We could also see how the support system created by the JNA and later VJ worked to enable the Bosnian Serb and Krajina Serb or “Croatian Serb” rebel armies to continiue fighting and that without the financial military and logistical support from Belgrade those two entities would crumble within weeks. They were in fact completely dependent on Belgrade and Serbia.
In most cases the paper trail leads to Knin, Pale, Belgrade and as we could recently see in the guilty verdicts of the Herceg Bosna six, to Zagreb as well, as Franjo Tudjman Janko Bobetko and Gojko Susak were all found to be guilty albeit posthumously of being a part of Joint Crminal Enterprise in regards to the crimes of the HVO and the Croatian Army in Herzegovina and central Bosnia.
History is written by historians, not by politicians. As I wrote above one of the great, if overlooked, achievements of the ICTY is the astonishing trove of documents and other evidence assembled by researchers and prosecutors. Now 20 years after the war in the former Yugoslavia there is a an abundance material on the breakup of Yugoslavia, some of it is good some poor and some of it great, above people like Tim Judah, Josip Glaurdic, Marko Attila Hoare, Roy Gutman, David Rhode, Christopher Hitchens, Ed Vulliamy, Michael A. Sells, Stjepan G. Mestrovic, David Rieff, Chuck Sudetic, Michael Libal, Brendan Simms and others have written extensively about the breakup of Yugoslavia and the war and genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Now it is up to us to honor the memory of the victims of the Bosnian genocide by fighting the deniers and revisionists, at every turn not only with the verdicts, of which there are many. Most of the political and military leadership of Republika Srpska have been found guilty of persecution, based on ethnic or religous ground, of murder, and genocide. People like Biljana Plavsic, Momcilo Krajisnik, Dragomir Milosevic Stanislav Galic, Mico Stanisic, Radislav Krstic Dusko Tadic, Milomir Stakic… We must also fight the deniers with the facts, with the truth. We must safeguard the memory of our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles, grandfathers, cousins, friends, lovers, husbands, wifes. All those killed in Srebrenica, Prijedor, Visegrad, Vlasenica, Rudo, Mostar, Ljubuski, Sanski Most, Bjeljina, Brcko, Cajnicje, Rogatica, Stolac, Sarajevo, Kozarac, Bratunac, Foca, Ahmici, Omarska, Trnopolje…
Professor Reunald de la Brosse´s rapport on Milosevic´s political propaganda and the Plan to Create a State for all Serbs is split in five seperate parts. Here are all five parts: